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Phineas Baxandall
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Mr. Baxandall oversees policy and strategy development for state PIRGs’ tax and budget campaigns throughout the U.S., including transportation campaignst. He comes to the PIRGs from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government where he assisted in directing the Taubman Center for State and Local Government as well as the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston. In that capacity he assisted the city of Somerville, Massachusetts with performance management and best-practice budgeting, as well as served as a technical advisor for the Massachusetts’ Metropolitan Mayors’ Coalition report on reforming local aid, which was credited for helping to restore local aid funding within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Before coming to the Kennedy School, Baxandall worked for the research department of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, editing their flagship publication, Regional Review. He also taught political economy for several years at Harvard’s undergraduate honors program in Social Studies, where he won six teaching awards. In 1990-91, he taught economics and organizational behavior at the University of Budapest. In Hungary, Baxandall also worked with an American campaign consulting firm to observe focus groups, formulate survey questions, and prepare national strategy for a major political party in Parliament.

He has authored or co-authored several reports, academic journal articles, or magazine features on a variety of issues in political economy. These include, "Finding Solutions to Fund Transit: Combining Accountability And New Resources For World Class Public Transportation"and "Sunshine for California: Shining Light On Corporate Tax Secrecy For Healthier State Budgets, Investments and Markets, as well as "Betting on the Future: The Economic Impact of Legalized Gambling," "Cross-Sector Collaboration in Massachusetts," "Local Service, Local Aid, Common Challenges," "Three Worlds of Working Time: The Partisan and Welfare Politics of Work-Hours in OECD Countries," "Spending #1, Performance #37: How the U.S. Ranks Internationally Using World Health Organization Data," "Good Capital, Bad Capital: Dangers and Development in Digital Diasporas," "Road Privatization: Explaining the Trend, Assessing the Facts, and Protecting the Public," "A Better Way to Go: Meeting America's 21st Century Transportation Challenges with Modern Public Transit," "Squandering the Stimulus: An Analysis of Household Gas Spending, Economic Stimulus Checks, and the Need for Better Transportation Options," "Economic Stimulus or Simply More Misguided Spending? ," "How and Why to Fund Public Transportation," "Private Roads, Public Costs," " 2.0," and a book from Ashgate Press, Constructing Unemployment.

Education: Ph.D., Political Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2000, B.A., Economics and College of Social Studies, Wesleyan University, 1989

Entries by Phineas Baxandall

It's Time to Put the Brakes on Building Big Highways

(1) Comments | Posted September 19, 2014 | 3:47 PM

Once upon a time, Congress passed long-term transportation funding bills every six years. They were opportunities for assessing priorities, making reforms and redirecting efforts when appropriate. But since the last long-term transportation law expired in 2009, Congressional gridlock has jammed up consideration of the federal Highway Trust Fund's priorities.

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The Transportation Crisis: It's About Priorities, Not Just Money

(0) Comments | Posted June 2, 2014 | 4:32 PM

You know lawmakers on Capitol Hill are desperate for transportation funding when they look at the struggling U.S. Postal Service and see a potential cash cow.

Members of Congress have floated the idea of raiding the Postal Service to fill the gap in the Highway Trust Fund, which...

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Costly Driving Time Warp at the U.S. Department of Transportation

(1) Comments | Posted March 3, 2014 | 9:07 AM

The U.S. Department of Transportation seems to be stuck in a bizarre time warp. For nine years in a row Americans have decreased their average driving miles. Yet, the U.S. DOT's most recent biennial report to Congress on the state of the nation's transportation system, released...

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In The Public Interest : Four Reasons Lawmakers Are Scrutinizing How Companies Turn Settlements From Wrongdoing Into Tax Write Offs

(9) Comments | Posted July 2, 2013 | 5:35 PM

The oil giant BP paid for cleanup and compensation for their massive Gulf oil spill, and rightfully so. But was this a "necessary and ordinary cost of doing business" that deserved a $10 billion tax break? I think most of us would respond with a resounding, "no!"

Companies like BP...

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In the Public Interest : Women or Men Leading the Trend Away from Driving?

(0) Comments | Posted June 28, 2012 | 4:22 PM

Just released official data show that Americans drove a billion fewer miles in April 2012 compared to April 2011, despite a slightly better economy. It's now well known that Americans, led by youth, have been reducing their driving since the middle of last decade.

Less known...

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In the Public Interest : Led by Youth Americans Are Driving Less, But When Will Lawmakers Notice?

(4) Comments | Posted April 13, 2012 | 11:14 AM

In the years after World War II, Americans' love affair with the car reached full flower.

To the post-war generation, cars were a symbol of maturity, prosperity and freedom. Acquiring a driver's license was a "rite of passage" for young people -- something that was ideally done as close to...

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In The Public Interest : States Make Spending More Transparent, but Some Far Ahead of Others

(1) Comments | Posted March 20, 2012 | 5:47 PM

Ten years ago, "public record" meant that if you wanted information about government activities and you knew the proper agency and who to visit there, then you could request photocopies of documents by their proper bureaucratic code. If you could wait for officials to locate the documents and perhaps pay...

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In The Public Interest : Will BP's Misdeeds Be Further Subsidized by Taxpayers?

(5) Comments | Posted March 6, 2012 | 7:13 AM

When a corporation pays a fine, it's not allowed to deduct the cost as a business expense for tax purposes. But when companies pay a settlement, such as that being negotiated between the US government and BP, then companies typically write off the costs, shifting the burden in part back...

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In The Public Interest : Could Obama's Business Tax Reform Realize Its Potential?

(3) Comments | Posted March 1, 2012 | 2:07 PM

The much anticipated corporate tax reform framework released last week by President Obama hit the right notes but lacked the details to know if it can fully realize it's potential.

While it's unclear if it would generate enough new revenue given high deficits and severe program cuts we face, the...

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In The Public Interest : House Transportation Bills Strikes First as Tragedy, Then as Dangerous Farce

(24) Comments | Posted February 3, 2012 | 3:29 PM

With much fanfare and 854 days late, the U.S. House last week introduced bills to fund our nation's transportation system for the next five years. The new rules for spending $260 billion over five years would be tilted more toward highways with less going to buses, rail, biking and pedestrian...

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In the Public Interest: The "Dirty Thirty" Corporations that Spend More on Lobbying than Taxes

(13) Comments | Posted January 17, 2012 | 3:30 PM

Taxes and democracy are two oft-maligned activities that Americans dearly depend on. "Indeed it has been said," noted Winston Churchill, "that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." He might just as easily have been...

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In the Public Interest: Problems With Privatized Law Enforcement's New Frontier

(2) Comments | Posted October 27, 2011 | 5:09 PM

A company contracts with your city to search through your individual garbage. If they find other improperly sorted waste, they send you a municipal citation and collect a portion of the fine. Another company surveys your house for zoning violations. The cash-strapped city is glad for the extra revenue and...

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Private High-Speed Rail: A Dangerous Fantasy

(0) Comments | Posted July 19, 2011 | 4:05 PM

The politics of high-speed rail can be bizarre. Few people actually oppose connecting our cities with fast intercity trains. Most of the industrialized world has already shown that the idea is popular and works well. The politicians that do the most to prevent high-speed rail generally claim to be fans...

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In The Public Interest: Maine Approves Historic Law To Reduce Oil Use (Really!)

(4) Comments | Posted July 5, 2011 | 6:01 PM

The politics of Maine's leadership has shifted dramatically in the past few years. The new Tea Party Governor and Republican-dominated legislature have made waves rolling back energy-efficiency rules, making it easier for insurance companies to raise premiums, and making it harder to register to vote.

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In the Public Interest: Needed: Sane Rules About the Privatization of Infrastructure

(3) Comments | Posted June 28, 2011 | 11:37 AM

You'd think the only reason American infrastructure lacks funding was rules preventing private businesses from throwing money at it.

The issue is heating up. Last week Congress introduced a couple of bills to solve this imaginary problem and one that would set some ground rules to protect the public.


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In the Public Interest: Examining Governor Scott Walker's Highway Boondoggles

(12) Comments | Posted May 26, 2011 | 1:29 PM

Scott Walker swept into the Wisconsin governor's office pledging to eliminate government waste and institute fiscal restraint over spending. When he rejected federal funds to build high-speed rail because the trains would require relatively minor operating subsidies, the move was misguided and shortsighted; but his supporters could admire...

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In The Public Interest: How Much Did You Pay for Tax Dodging Corporations?

(55) Comments | Posted April 19, 2011 | 2:39 PM

Yesterday, millions of Americans rushed to the post office to file their federal income tax returns. For all of us, the checks we wrote were an average of $434 higher because of the burden we are forced to shoulder for major corporations and wealthy individuals who use offshore...

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In The Public Interest: States Must Make It Easy to Track Spending on Contracts and Subsidies

(0) Comments | Posted March 16, 2011 | 3:19 PM

While some politicians try to cast state budget problems as all about public pensions and salaries, most government spending actually flows to other sorts of things. In many if not most public agencies the spending takes place largely through private contractors. Much other spending takes place through tax credits and...

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In The Public Interest: A (Non)Taxing Issue

(3) Comments | Posted February 15, 2011 | 3:55 PM

The president's budget released this week follows up on several promises he made in his State of the Union a few weeks ago. The budget calls for ending some wasteful subsidies to big agriculture and the oil and gas industry, as well as improved management and IT upgrades for Defense...

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In The Public Interest: Busting the 'User Fee' Highway Myth

(4) Comments | Posted January 4, 2011 | 3:46 PM

Ever wonder why the roads and highways in our cities keep getting bigger and wider while public transportation, rail, and bike paths are left behind, even now when gas prices are rising and oil use is a major national concern?

Part of the reason is a deeply-held misconception that...

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